Enhancing student understanding of mathematical concepts through the development of estimation skills with the QAMA calculator

Stephen Sugden, Iwona Czaplinksi

Abstract


The development of learners’ conceptual understanding of mathematics (mathematical notions) constitutes one of the crucial problems in STEM disciplines (Byrnes & Wasik, 1991; Willingham, 2010; Richland et al., 2012). The overall aim of the project is to assist students with development of the above-mentioned capability by creating pedagogical environment that promotes students ‘deep learning (Marton & Säljö, 1976; Entwistle, 1981, 2000; Biggs, 1987, 1993; Ramsden, 1992; Simms 2006; Atherton, 2013).
The authors will report on the progress so far with the pilot study investigating the ways of developing students’ understanding of mathematical concepts through the use of the QAMA scientific calculator (Samson, 2014). QAMA is a scientific calculator designed specifically to force the user to provide a “reasonable estimate” of the answer before giving any output. The authors re-designed the unit with the objective of creating educational experiences that assist students in becoming independent learners. The re-designed tasks required students to use the tool during a series of educational (collaborative) activities while learning the concept of mathematical estimation. The design of the task encouraged students to apply their previously acquired knowledge in the new situations, allowing them to perceive the connection between their freshly learnt estimation skills with application in new contexts. The re-designed unit, Mathematics for Exercise Science, a first-year mathematics unit for science students was introduced for the second semester of 2014 at Queensland University of Technology.

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